Catholicism 101 Writer
Gerard DeAngelis is a double major in Philosophy and Business Management & Leadership. His interests include anything tangentially related to St. Thomas Aquinas, the Angelic Doctor, the Common Doctor, the Dumb Ox of Aquino! He also loves Mock Trial, playing classic rock on the guitar, and long walks on the beach while sipping chamomile tea. After college he plans to do nothing with his business degree but rather purchase a large toga and use his philosophical prowess to become a sophist, selling his knowledge for big money.
Every Ash Wednesday, the Gospel reminds us of how we should act when we perform some of the most fundamental Christian works—namely, almsgiving, prayer, and fasting. Jesus’ main lesson in this reading is to teach us to avoid hypocrisy by not even letting “your left hand know what your right hand is doing” (Mt. 6:3). What I find most interesting about this Gospel, however, is not Jesus’ main message, but rather what He assumes of His audience. He says “when you pray,” “when you give alms,” and “when you fast.” It is clear that Jesus thinks the need for these practices is so obvious that He doesn’t even bother telling us we should do them!
Who is the most beautiful woman in the universe? Many might say their wife, girlfriend, mother, or daughter. Catholics, however, know that one woman has all these beat—the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is for this reason we never tire of declaring “Hail Mary!” time and time again in prayers like the Rosary. Like a husband who could never put a limit on how many times he says “I love you” to his wife, Catholics should never tire of loving, venerating, and growing closer to our Blessed Mother. Indeed, as St. Bernard says, “Of Mary, there is never enough!”
Every year the Christmas season provokes many critiques about the secularized nature of one of Christianity’s most important feasts. Among many insights provided by the Common Doctor of the Church, St. Thomas Aquinas, one critique—although admittedly not the most important—he might bring to the table is this: Isn’t it wrong to be lying to our kids about Santa Claus?
It seems the greatest joy of Christianity is that Someone always loves us no matter how sinful we are, and will give us without fail a “good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over” (Lk. 6:38) not because of our “own doing,” but “by grace” (Eph. 2:8). Yet, on the other hand, we know that if we claim to have a relationship with this Great Lover and receive the superabundance of His life, we must “keep the commandments (Mt. 19:17) and work towards Him “with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12).
Today, when many people think of “the law,” they see it as, at best, a necessary evil to maintain order—or at worst, as a harmful imposition. This contrasts directly, however, with the Biblical notion of a law that is to be loved: “I love thy law / Seven times a day I praise thee / for thy righteous ordinances…The law of thy mouth is better to me / than thousands of gold and silver pieces…I delight in thy law” (Ps 119:163-164, 72, 70).
What exactly is grace? We often claim to be in someone’s “good graces,” or we might sit behind Grace in Calculus. Luckily, in the “Prima Secundae,” or “First Part of the Second Part,” of his Summa Theologiae, St. Thomas Aquinas gives an answer. In Question 110, getting ready to present his treatise on the theological virtues, St. Thomas turns his attention to what grace is—what he calls its “essence.”